Esteemed author of the award-nominated Shaman’s Drum and it’s prequel, Alchemy – first of all Ailsa, we want to know about YOU! Where do you live, what inspires you, your favourite pastime (which I think has something to do with motorbikes if I’m not mistaken?!)
Thanks for inviting me, Shani. I live in a tiny little village half way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere in Eastern France about two hours’ drive from the Swiss border. It’s very quiet but has loads of forest, a river, all the things a nature-lover like me thrives on.
What inspires me? Oh crikey, everything! I get lots of ideas while walking around the footpaths with my dogs. People-watching inspires me. I have developed whole books out of one scene that came to me while I was sitting out back drinking tea. I tend to think in film clips. I also have a habit of practising dialogue while out walking so I look a bit weird chatting to myself in two voices.
Pastimes? Yes, my motorbikes are one of my passions but I also run an orphanage for homeless teddy bears, I knit and crochet all the time and I’m an animal rights activist. At the moment I’m trying to teach myself the bamboo flute but that is proving painful for all concerned.
Aha, my mother tried to teach me the Peruvian nose flute, honestly! I never took to it though. Okay, now your books. What are they about and which characters do you particularly love and why?
Alchemy is the first and Shaman’s Drum is the second in a trilogy. Fundamentally they are about real-time magic and human nature. How, even when a perfect solution seems to have been found to the current problems ecological, military, terrorist etc., then there will still be battles to be fought. No matter how perfect the world is, someone will want to screw it up through greed or ignorance. I love all my characters. Some because they are heroic and wonderful. Others because they are totally ordinary but get caught up doing extraordinary things. One in particular I love because she is like me – a wrinkly Rebel with a smelly dog. In my books, magic is an everyday thing (probably because it is in my life). Magic-users are people you could meet queuing up for a takeaway pizza. They just have a skill, like being musical or able to paint.
You wrote the prequel second, how very Star Wars of you! Why was this? And is there a third book to come that we can all get our teeth into?
I never expected there to be a prequel. Shaman’s Drum was my first foray into fantasy literature, a stand-alone story and I was delighted when Crooked Cat Publishing took it on. The prequel came about purely by the public asking for it. Without the background, readers felt they didn’t know enough and said that I should fill in the back-story. Now, of course, one can read them in order and yes, the final one (I think) has a working title of Reunion and I’m doing it now.
I happen to know you’ve got a brother who is literary too – Cameron – can we have him in the spotlight on him temporarily please?
OK. Cam here. I started writing before Ailsa and am published by MLRPress. (over 18s only) I write detective fiction but my two heroes are Military Police investigators and they are gay. I write about them doing their jobs very well and the best reviews I have had is that my books show gay guys in ordinary circumstances and being very good at their work. Had they been a straight couple of detectives on a Sunday evening TV show and they had ended up in bed together, nobody would turn a hair but as Jack and Rory are men….
So when Ailsa started writing “straight” fiction we shared out the names. I did actually exist for about five minutes. I was Ailsa’s twin brother but I was declared still-born. She survived but rather kindly re-animated me to be her alter-ego in the writing world. Everyone is in on the joke and we even banter with each other on FB.
I live with her and her husband and she is forever nicking my expensive aftershave while I try to correct her outrageous dress-sense (or lack of it). We have a tradition of doing a mad dance with our underpants on our heads when we get really good news like a new book deal.
Now that I’d like to see! Okay, you asked me when I visited the Bingerbread Cottage, what my favourite books are. Now I know we share one in common – The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. You said you referred to it when teaching the path. Get all mystical on us, Ailsa – tell me what the path is?
If you’ve read Mists then you know about the Goddess and that is the kind of thing I did. I trained in Wiccan paganism and was ordained as a High Priestess so in my turn I trained others. Since then, I have had to move and don’t have a coven so as a solo practitioner I find shamanistic life suits me better. I am surrounded by the spirits of Nature and some of my best friends are trees. (Nurse! She’s out of bed again!) I just believe that everything has a spirit and we honour them and in working together we can get some healing going. I don’t teach any more because it is too draining on my energy. Having been rather unwell for quite a long while I don’t have the strength but I can recommend some good reading!
Wow, sounds good to me! And your other favourite books – what are they?
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (anything featuring those 3). Alan Garner, Henry Treece, Bernard Cornwell, Marian Green (very good “teach thyself witchcraft”) Also very fond of Gina Dickerson who is a friend and writes in a matter of fact way about magic, rather as I do. To be honest I will read just about anything as long as it is well written. Having gone through the “joys” of editing I throw books across the room if they are sub-standard. I’ve found that by being with CCP, I read my fellow authors’ work out of a sense of family and I’ve found some brilliant work I wouldn’t normally have touched but really enjoyed.
You live in a lovely French village – describe to me a typical day.
Get up, drink tea in front of the computer and say hello to all my friends world-wide. Take the dogs out for a walk and talk to my spirits by the river. I often get “direction” or inspiration then. Home and see to any mundane chores before getting on with posting my
blog. I try to blog every day. Then writing if I don’t have hospital appointments, physiotherapy or any other boring stuff. Evenings I sit with my knitting and watch films. I always have some knitting on the go and my speciality is either cuddly toys for small relatives or Icelandic jumpers. (Loving those jumpers!!!)
Any other writing projects on the go?
Yes! Too many! Cameron is about to start on Book 3 of his Jack and Rory series. I am taking a complete departure once Reunion is finished and am going to write a collection of short stories about my life here in France. After 22 years, I do seem to have rather a lot of funny tales.
Last but not least, Five Fascinating Facts about Ailsa please!!
I used to be a survival instructor in the Royal Air Force.
I lived aboard my boat for 6 years and arrived in France on it.
I am numerically dyslexic. It takes me ten whole minutes to write down a phone number.
I’ve been an ice cream seller, a PA, a language teacher, a vet nurse and worked in a zoo (which I hated and will write a book about one day).
I can speak about four or five language but only fluent in French and English – the others I can only speak when I’m in the country needing it. Weird or what?
Thanks so much for having me – it’s been a blast! Ailsa, I couldn’t agree more!
The Official Bio…
Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France for over twenty years and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing.
The books and where to find her!
Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat
Shaman’s Drum (nominated for the People’s Choice Book Award): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shamans-Drum-Ailsa-Abraham-ebook/dp/B00AXM6CAM/ref=pd_sim_kinc_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=1F63HX964P3H5WZMNPYS
Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ailsaabraham
Web Page – http://ailsaabraham.com